________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 19 . . . . May 23, 2003


Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid.

Julie Lawson. Illustrated by Kasia Charko.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2003.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55143-250-1.

Subject Heading:
Dawson (Yukon) - History - Juvenile literature.

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

**** /4


“Don’t look so worried!” Arizona Charlie handed Ben a glass ball. “It’s a simple trick. You hold the ball, and I shoot it. My wife usually does it, but the other night a faulty bullet nicked the tip of her thumb.”

Ben gripped his rope. “But my lasso! I thought---“

“Course you can do your rope tricks! But that’ll come later.” He smiled at Ben and tipped his hat. “You’ll do fine.”

Ben looked at the glass ball. He looked at the rifle. He looked at his thumb.

Based on the true story of Charlie Meadows (aka Arizona Charlie) who built the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson City in 1899, this book takes readers back to a bygone era of vaudeville and Wild West shows. When Arizona Charlie, a champion lasso twirler and sharpshooter, comes to town, an impressionable young boy, Ben, spies on him in order to hone his own skills at lassoing and shooting. Charlie finds out, and he invites Ben to participate in his show at the Palace Grand. Barely able to contain his excitement, Ben waits anxiously for his turn on stage. But Charlie throws a wrench into the works by asking Ben to help him with a dangerous trick prior to Ben’s solo performance. Ben chickens out, dashing out of the theatre in embarrassment and humiliation. As the crowd exits the theatre a while later, a thief, chased by a prospector, runs down the street. Summoning his courage and taking hold of his lasso, Ben ropes the culprit and holds him until the police come. Charlie congratulates Ben (aka the Klondike Kid) for his bravery and spunk.


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     Lawson’s interest in Arizona Charlie was piqued when she attended the Palace Grand Theatre while she was living in Dawson City. She writes the story with empathy for Ben and adds suspense when the boy anxiously awaits his chance in the limelight. Readers will identify with Ben when fear robs him of his dream and causes him to feel like a failure.

     Charko’s impressive illustrations, rendered in watercolour and coloured pencil, are detailed and historically accurate. Sepia and gold tones, smoky blues and the muted burgundy of the vaudeville theatre add authenticity, bringing the period to life. Readers would be advised to look closely at the illustrations for there is a bit of a history lesson in the details.

     Not only an enjoyable read, but also a valuable literary link to a social studies unit on the Klondike gold rush.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird’s Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.